[QODLink]
Middle East
Sadrists close 'ballot' for Iraq PM
Results of unofficial plebiscite by election kingmaker due "in the next few days".
Last Modified: 03 Apr 2010 17:47 GMT
Both al-Maliki and Allawi were on the Sadrist ballot alongside several others [AFP]

Followers of Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shia Muslim leader in Iraq, have concluded an unofficial ballot to establish who should become the country's next prime minister.

Though bereft of any legal authority, the two-day referendum was held after al-Sadr emerged as a kingmaker following Iraq's recently held national elections.

"The referendum has concluded and the participation rate was very high," Saleh al-Obeidi, the Najaf-based spokesman for the movement, said on Saturday.

"The counting process has already started in the provinces, and in the next few days we will release the results."

Final results in Iraq's March 7 elections gave the Iraqiya coalition led by Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister, just two seats more than State of Law bloc led by Nouri al-Maliki, the incumbent prime minister.

Preferred PM

The Sadrists' ballot for chosing a prime minister listed both al-Maliki and Allawi, alongside al-Maliki's predecessor Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Adel Abdel Mahdi, a vice-president, and Jaafar al-Sadr, who ran on al-Maliki's list but has al-Sadr family ties.

special report
View Al Jazeera's in depth coverage of the Iraqi election

Ballot sheets also included space for voters to write the name of other nominees they might prefer.

The Sadrists won at least 39 seats in the 325-seat parliament  making them the largest group within the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), a Shia coalition that placed third in the race.

Although the ballot was nominally open to all Iraqis, the vast majority of voters are likely to have been Sadrist backers.

Sadrist officials were seen carrying ballot boxes around Baghdad, stopping people on the street and arriving on locals' doorsteps to ask them to vote.

Voters were not required to present identification when casting ballots, and no official observers oversaw the poll, with little to stop people from voting many times.

'Shrewd move'

The referendum is widely seen as a way for the Sadrist bloc, whose 30-something leader has been in Iran for about two years, to avoid giving its backing to al-Maliki.

"With this referendum, the Sadrists have made a shrewd move to put pressure on the other political parties," Hamid Fadhel, a Baghdad University political science professor, said.

"The negotiations with State of Law have stalled and the Sadrists want to push for someone other than Nouri al-Maliki [as premier], armed with popular support.

The Sadrists were key supporters when al-Maliki formed his government in 2006.

But two years later, he turned the security forces on the Mahdi Army, the movement's armed wing, jailing thousands of al-Sadr supporters in a campaign to destroy militias in the southern city of Basra and the Baghdad suburb of Sadr City.

Meanwhile, Allawi received a major boost to his hopes of becoming prime minister after the leader of a key faction within the INA said it would not join a government without him.

"We will not participate in a government that does not include Iraqiya," Ammar al-Hakim of the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council said.

"It received many votes in the western regions and in Baghdad, and it is not right to ignore the will of these people, because excluding Iraqiya means excluding these people."

Source:
Agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
More than one-quarter of Gaza's population has been displaced, causing a humanitarian crisis.
Ministers and MPs caught on camera sleeping through important speeches have sparked criticism that they are not working.
Muslim charities claim discrimination after major UK banks began closing their accounts.
Italy struggles to deal with growing flood of migrants willing to risk their lives to reach the nearest European shores.
Featured
Friends of Steven Sotloff, allegedly the second journalist shown in Islamic State beheading video, call for his release.
Cut off from bulk of Tunisia's economic development, residents of rural towns are creating their own opportunities.
Craft breweries see rising sales, challenging large corporations for a bigger taste of Mexico's $20bn beer market.
Questions of colonialism after Malawi opts for English as medium of instruction in schools rather than local languages.
Frustration grows in Kiev as pledges to end corruption and abuse of power stagnate after Maidan Square protest.
join our mailing list